MIKE CUMMINGS: Another solid but underwhelming performance by Manchester United. And another solid but not-quite-enough performance by Tottenham Hotspur. Combine the two and you get a couple of questions. Will Man U ever lose this season? And are Spurs really ready to challenge for the title?
It’s becoming more and more clear that the answer to both of those questions might be ‘No.’ Man U have now played 21 games, and though they’ve only won 12 of them, they still haven’t lost. There have been several occasions where they looked ripe for a defeat, but their nine draws show they’re difficult to put away. Only 17 matches separate them and 2003-04 Arsenal.
Sunday was a perfect example of United’s toughness. When Rafael was sent off in the 74th minute — a ridiculous decision — it looked like the unbeaten run was finally about to fall. But Spurs couldn’t find the net, and only threatened a couple of times. As they have all season, United showed how difficult they are to break down.
As for Spurs, it’s another opportunity lost. A draw against the champions-elect is nothing to be ashamed of, but three points were there for the taking. With 16 matches to go, they’re 8 points off the pace. Winning the league is probably out of the question, but fighting Chelsea for fourth place — and a Champions League qualifying spot — is definitely not.
That should be Spurs’ top priority now.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Not only did the 0-0 draw with Manchester United feel like a lost opportunity for Spurs, it is safe to wonder when they will receive a better opportunity.
Not only did Tottenham enjoy the greater number of opportunities and overall possession, the send-off of Rafael- like Mike said, a ludicrous decision- put Man United at a disadvantage in terms of numbers. More importantly, however, Rafael had been a force over the initial 74 minutes- easily the best Man United player on the day.
Still, with Gareth Bale a non-factor- United did a splendid job corralling him with a pair of defenders at all times- and Peter Crouch largely silenced in the second half, it came to Rafael Van Der Vaart to make a play. But on this day, he wasn’t up to it.
Obviously, the significantly stouter Spurs defense is good news, with Jermain Defoe getting healthier by the day, Steven Pienaar about to join the club, and additional help possibly on the way. But right now it feels like this draw, and the one earlier this year against Chelsea, are the matches that best represented Tottenham’s chance to notch a domestic win on par with the 3-1 triumph in San Siro. Of course, the losses to West Ham and WBA are probably as much to blame for the fourth-place dreams the team ought to have now.